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Joel on Software


by Joel Spolsky
Friday, February 14, 2003

New MicrophoneDue to the poor sound quality of the previous CityDesk online demo, I decided to invest in a real studio quality microphone instead of using one of those cheap computer headset/mike combinations.

It took me a while to figure out what I needed. The mike itself is a Shure SM58, probably one of the most popular professional microphones in use today and generally available for about $100.

I bought the Mic from Sam Ash on 48th street, hoping that they would be able to get me the right combination of cables and adapters I needed to plug this thing into a standard sound card. The stoner DJ sales dude sounded very confident but he didn't tell me that I needed a preamp, and he gave me the wrong kind of cables.

If you're trying to do this yourself, here's exactly what I have:

  1. the Shure SM58 microphone
  2. A basic desk stand. The clip part that connects the mike to the stand comes with the mike.
  3. a 3' mic cable (it only needs to reach the preamp). I bought a CBI LowZ Microphone Cable from Zzounds.
  4. A preamp. This boosts the level of the microphone to something that is called "Line Level" which is what a computer sound card needs. I got an M-Audio AudioBuddy from Zzounds.
  5. To connect the preamp to the sound card, you need a cable with a 1/4" stereo phone jack on one end and a 1/8" stereo "mini" phone jack on the other end. I assembled this out of two cables which I bought at my neighborhood Radio Shack. For some reason the professional music stores like Sam Ash and Zzounds think it is beneath their dignity to stock any parts with 1/8" jacks, but that is what your sound card needs.

The sound quality is really quite a bit better. Here are two MP3s, before (with the computer mike) and after (with the professional mike).

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